Slave cabins advertised as rental units on Airbnb

·3 min read

Multiple vacation units’ descriptions openly advertised that they formerly housed enslaved Black Americans, according to a new report.

Airbnb has come under fire after reports that the popular vacation rental website has multiple rental listings available for units that were once slave quarters.

The scandal was first exposed in a viral TikTok video posted this week by entertainment and civil rights attorney Wynton Yates, known on the platform as @LawyerWinton. Yates highlighted a now-deleted listing in Greenville, Mississippi at “The Panther Burn Cottage @ Belmont Plantation,” in the video.

As seen in the video, the unit’s description openly advertised that it was a location where enslaved Black Americans were forced to live in the 1830s. It was later used as a cabin for sharecroppers, and eventually as a medical office.

Yates told Mic that he was initially in disbelief when his brother shared the listing in his family group chat, explaining that he felt the listing made a “mockery” of the brutal history of American slavery.

“Growing up, [my family] would take my siblings and my cousins and I and put slave shackles in our hands so that we could feel the weight of the steel that was put on our ancestors’ bodies to contain them,” Yates shared with the outlet. “To see someone just blatantly make a mockery out of it just didn’t sit right with me.”

A spokesperson for Airbnb told theGrio in an email: “We are taking this report seriously and have deactivated all listings associated with this property as we investigate.”

In a follow-up email on Aug. 1, Airbnb issued the following statement: “Properties that formerly housed the enslaved have no place on Airbnb. We apologize for any trauma or grief created by the presence of this listing, and others like it, and that we did not act sooner to address this issue.”

In recent days, according to the statement, the company has “removed the Mississippi listing in question,” is “removing listings that are known to include former slave quarters in the United States,” and “are working with experts to develop new policies that address other properties associated with slavery.”

Despite the removal of listings related to the Belmont Plantation, Mic reported that a number of other listings feature renovated slave cabins as well, including a “tiny home” in Georgia and a New Orleans “suite.”

According to the report, listings that were found to feature former slave quarters by and large noted the former use of the units, but painted a sanitized or dulled-down picture that did not sufficiently acknowledge the atrocities connected to the units. In the Georgia unit’s description, the venue’s “rustic charm” was touted.

Getty Images
Getty Images

“They don’t care about the true history of that space,” Yates told Mic. “They care about the plantation in its visual beauty. … They have the privilege of mentally removing themselves from that history because they are not affected by it in the present day.”

“If you were to put any Black American in that space, the emotional reaction would be night and day,” he continued.

Yates and some of the commenters under his viral TikTok video suggested that instead of listing the properties as vacation rentals, memorializing them as historical sites would be a more productive way to educate modern-day citizens about the cruelty withstood by generations of Black Americans who once dwelled in them against their will.

This article was updated to include a statement issued by Airbnb on Aug. 1.

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